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The emerging stars of the 2019/20 season: Ryan Baird

The 20-year-old Leinster second row possesses remarkable athleticism.

WITH THE 2019/20 rugby season over for now, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the players who emerged to signal their potential during this campaign.

Over the coming weeks, The42 will take a closer look at some of the players who showed that they can become forces in professional rugby in years to come.

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THAT RYAN BAIRD was part of Andy Farrell’s senior Ireland squad twice during this year’s Six Nations tells us everything we need to know about his potential.

The 20-year-old travelled with Ireland to Portugal for their pre-championship camp and then returned to the fold at the start of this month ahead of the scheduled France clash.

ryan-baird Baird at Leinster training this season. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Baird’s athleticism means he has been on Leinster and the IRFU’s radar for some years now and it’s clear to see why.

The long-limbed second row already has a habit of producing spectacular linebreaks, following his stunning effort for the Ireland U20s against New Zealand at last year’s World Championship in Argentina with two more at senior level for Leinster in recent times.

Baird had a scintillating run for Leinster against the Ospreys last month before scoring one of the individual tries of the season as he notched a hat-trick against Glasgow a week later.

The former High School and St Michael’s College student has offered Leinster notable impact in possession in the 280 minutes he’s had in the Guinness Pro14 this season, averaging a gain of 3.8 metres across his total of 50 carries.

Eight passes and one offload in his six appearances also hint at Baird’s handling ability, while he has defended robustly with a 95% tackle success rate and one turnover tackle.

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Baird’s explosiveness is useful at the lineout, where he has made three steals for Leinster this season, as well as winning 12 lineouts on his province’s throw. Regarded as a very intelligent player, Baird is already capable of calling lineouts, a major string to his bow.

We have seen Baird used as a blindside flanker in his young career, both with the Ireland U20s and Leinster, in another indicator of his dynamism and mobility.

But it appears likely that his future lies in the second row, where he can still offer a rangy ball-carrying presence. In having the attributes to play in the second row or at blindside, Baird is similar to the likes of Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

The hope is Baird will provide all the grunt, work-rate and set-piece quality of a lock along with the mobility and power of a blindside flanker. It could be a truly effective mix for Leinster and Ireland.

It will be exciting to see Baird teaming up with fellow St Michael’s alumnus James Ryan at some point in the future, potentially creating an ultra-explosive and hard-working second row combination.

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Capable of power output that has already seen him set Leinster records in the gym, Baird clearly has all the athletic tools to be a major success.

The likes of Stuart Lancaster and Leo Cullen will be crucial in guiding his development in the coming seasons, while Farrell will be cognisant of timing Baird’s first Test exposure right.

Importantly, Baird has experienced locks like Devin Toner and Scott Fardy to learn from in Leinster, while underrated players like Ross Molony and Josh Murphy will ensure he has to continue to fight hard for playing minutes.

Second rows aren’t judged on their try-scoring records, of course, but the fact that Baird has already notched a hat-trick in professional rugby at the age of just 20 marks him out as possessing something different.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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